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DELAWARE POETRY REVIEW
Billie Travalini
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UPON READING RENE DESCARTES' "DISCOURSE ON THE PROGRAMMATIC DIVISION OF TOTAL REALITY INTO OBSERVED, SUBJECT AND OBJECT, MIND AND MATTER" AND REALIZING THAT SCIENCE IS PART GOD AFTER ALL

1

Every Sunday my great grandparents,
Josiah and Annie McKay Harlan,
Walked with their eleven children, to
The Friend’s Meeting House to sit on
Hard wooden benches in silence, waiting
For the Lord to put words in their mouths
Worth sharing. Simple words without
All the razz-ma-tazz of adjectives
And adverbs.

2

And everywhere, the sweet sound of vowels,
The hard drive of consonants, threatened,
At any moment to explode in word after word--
Not so much desirable--but desiring,
Truth for instance.

3

Sometimes when I dream,
I see them, a single, solitary
Silhouette sitting shoulder to shoulder.
Shin to shin.
No one is quite ready to talk.
So much about words is lies

4

Unlike the beauty of a robin’s nest nestled
In the arms of a Douglas Fir. The way
One thing belongs to another and another
And another and is still free.

To Top

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LAS LUCES
(En recuerdo de Ernest Hemingway)

Blotches of yellow light
Crawl down a rain-soaked window
Where I sit, watching
A lone gypsy moth
Flutter sea-brown wings
Toward a corner lamppost.

In Havana,
The moon dances
On weathered stones
As old men
With deep creases
In their hands
Steer for the blue lamps
Of the shore, undaunted.

To Top

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PRETTY WHITE CHILD

I

At six I was a wanted child
all pretty and white, even
in second-hand clothes,

Handed down
from the skins of angels
then stretched over a body
that had been bought
for the price of a Greyhound
ticket and a bag of mangos.

But mine was a happy life
ferreting out dreams
that had been sealed
from the daylight
like a wedding dress
carefully boxed, then
slowly forgotten.

II

At ten my mother returned
instinctively pinning me to her
like the travel guides she carried
from Delaware to California
in a J.C. Penny shoebox.

III

“You’re our child,” my mother said,
and took me home so daddy
could beat his love into me
until I learned how to smile

Or pretended,
I did.

After a while I began
to crawl under my bed
and hide in the darkness
until daddy calmed down.

Imagine
what dust and dog hairs
tasted like going down
the back of my throat.

IV

Now you
say I have done quite well
for spending my childhood under a bed.
You remind me that my legs
have unwrapped themselves
and carry me to the grocery store
like everyone else.

The marvelous thing
is you don’t notice
the thick dust that settles
on the ground whenever I stand up.

To Top

~

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About the Poet

Billie Travalini’s memoir Bloodsisters was a finalist for the Bakeless Publication Prize and the James Jones Prize and won the 2005 Lewis and Clark Discovery Prize and the Delaware Press Association Award for nonfiction. She has received Individual Artist fellowships and grants in fiction and poetry from the Delaware Division of the Arts. Her poems, essays, and interviews have appeared in Writers on Writing: Short Story Writers and Their Art, Review Revue, and The Maryland Poetry Review. She photographed and was principal writer for Wilmington Senior Center: Fifty Years of Community. She co-edited with Fleda Brown The Mason-Dixon Line: An Anthology of Contemporary Literature by Delaware Writers (to be published spring 2008) and edited Teaching Troubled Youth: A Practical Pedagogical Approach (to be published March 2008). She is a fiction editor for The Journal of Caribbean Literatures, director of the Delaware Literary Connection, and founding director of the New Castle Writers’ Conference. She teaches writing and poetry at Lincoln University, at Wilmington College, in the Boys and Girls Clubs Pegasus ArtWorks program, and in youth detention homes throughout Delaware.
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